El Camino men’s volleyball falters in state title match; gets swept by Orange Coast College in three sets

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Sophomore outside hitter and co-captain Chris Phanngam holds up the second-place trophy after the El Camino men’s volleyball team lost to Orange Coast College in the State Finals. Photo credit: Jorge Villa

In a Cinderella-esque season, the El Camino men’s volleyball team overcame struggles of consistency and teamwork. When it all was said and done, the Warriors finished ranked No. 4 in the state.

Although a lackluster 10-7 record wasn’t going to surprise anyone, the team still finished second in the Western State Conference.

Unfortunately for the Warriors, the committee for the California Community College men’s volleyball coaches association changed the way seeding would be done for the 2017 playoffs, sophomore setter Pedro Campos said.

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Despite the underwhelming performance in the State Finals, the El Camino men's volleyball team brought home the fourth second-place in team history on Saturday, April 29. Photo credit: Jorge Villa

All of a sudden the high-flying Warriors were dropped to No. 7 in the eight-team state tournament and were considered underdogs throughout the tournament.

That wasn’t right for them, so they proved again and again that they are a top team.

They beat the No. 2 Irvine Valley College Lasers, then they beat the 2016 defending state champion Long Beach City College Vikings (No. 3) and finally they were tasked with a State Finals match against the No. 1 team in the state.

“I feel like we took (the seeding) as disrespect,” freshman middle blocker/opposite Jaden Misaalefua said. “We had decided to show them what’s the truth.”

All that effort to get to the title (El Camino’s fourth appearance in school history) was all for naught at the hands of Orange Coast College’s Jordan Hoppe.

Hoppe went off for the Pirates as he led all players with 16 kills in a dominant three-set sweep over EC on Saturday, April 29 and that performance led him to being named the 2017 State MVP.

Despite 17 digs from the Warriors over three sets, OCCs Justin Kam had 12 kills to help Hoppe on the night and between six players the Pirates’ offense totaled 50 kills.

The 2017 State Champions had 21 digs on the night, where El Camino could not really put the ball away.

The Warriors tallied 82 total attack attempts, but had 12 errors and only 40 kills.

The Pirates hit .615 in the third set, while EC hit .485.

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After the game Cesar Medina and Victor Villarreal sat on the bench with their heads hung low.
This is the second time that Cesar has brought his team to the State Finals, only to lose to their opponent. Photo credit: Jorge Villa

“We played well and the numbers showed that,” sophomore outside hitter and co-captain Chris Phanngam said. “But you can’t win if (they) hit (.615) it’s impossible.”

The Warriors had three players in double digits: sophomore outside hitters PJ Tulikihihifo notched 13, Cesar Medina added 12 and Phanngam tacked on 10.

EC ended the season with a 12-8 overall record and came up as the state runner-up for the second time since 2015.

The Warriors struggled, but it wasn’t a blowout by any means. They had strong runs throughout the loss, but mid-sets were dominated by the Pirates who grabbed leads and kept them.

“They were good,” EC coach Dick Blount said. “They finished, we didn’t.”

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